Monday, August 4, 2014

To Die For

My Grandpa and Grandma Norris, October 1940, Pie Town, NM
Photo by Russell Lee, U.S. Farm Security Administration
Coming from a very close family has a way of hooking you for life. In our case, it’s the NEARS Family Reunion held every first weekend of August in Pie Town, New Mexico. Yeah, you might have never heard of Pie Town, and that’s no surprise because our family pretty much doubles the population every year in August. We come from far and wide to catch up on news, hugs and precious memories of those from previous generations. We all eat too much, laugh, cry and tease each other, often regaling new spouses or old-enough kids with crazy stories of dad or mom or wife or husband back in the good old days.

Several family members trek over from Arizona, including us this past weekend. Our friends Doug and Ronna were with us. They came to the reunion with us for the first time a few years ago…we forgot to tell them that they would be adopted and considered a part of the family from now on. Many family members live in New Mexico, but a huge number are from the great state of Texas. Now, ya’ll, for the record, I tease Texans. I get a kick out of their twang and their state pride and their fun cowboy ways, but I must say that our family has some pretty special Texans in our ranks.

We’re also a pretty modern family. We have an annual worship service, and it’s now held on Saturday evening. I’m sure that being modern is the reason we moved the service to Saturday. It can’t have anything to do with the fact that most reunion folks have to pack up their motor homes and travel trailers, then drive what feels like a bazillion miles home on Sunday. Whatever the reason, we moved the service to Saturday.

As the "designated preacher" in the family, the nod for a Saturday sermon usually goes to me when I’m there. When I preached this year, I was approached after the service by a man I didn’t know. By the way, our reunion gang is big enough that I always meet new people there and sometimes discover that we had met before, but I forgot. Anyway, this fellow came up to me after the service to speak to me. He proceeded to tell me about what he called "my church" way down in Texas. He told me he was from near Del Rio, but that he drives about 45 miles to attend a church that he loves. He discovered the church when he lived closer to its location.

I hadn’t heard of the town where his church is located, so he explained it to me. The town is a ghost town. To make sure I heard him correctly, I asked, "Your church is in a ghost town?" "Yep," he said.

"It must have people coming from far and wide to get to it," I commented.

To be honest, I’ve known my share of ghost churches in very much alive towns, but I can’t recall hearing about a very much alive church in a ghost town. It’s certainly rare.

He proceed to tell me about some of their missionaries and their work in Mexico. He told me how they serve others. Obviously, their fellowship with Jesus isn’t just about learning something they had never seen in the Bible before.

His story got me thinking. Jesus’ ministry had its share of fair-weather followers. They came and hung out to watch the healings and get their stomachs filled. When the going got tough, those folks left Jesus. Percentage-wise only a small remnant really caught what Jesus was saying. He was calling them to leave their old lives behind and follow Him. It was a faith worth living for. In fact, it was to die for. The ones who jumped in with both feet and refused to longingly look back to their old lives turned their world upside-down. Theirs was the kind of faith that would bring to life a church in a ghost town.

We begin a new series this weekend at Stone Ridge Church. "From here to where?" is about what Jesus taught his closest guys. Jesus called them to live a different kind of life, the kind that would rock their world. He is calling us to rock our world, too. I can’t wait to talk with you about it! Can’t join us in person? Catch the podcast! Oh, and mark your calendars for next year’s family reunion!

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